This article was published on the week of April 11, 2001

Archbishop releases book on living Catholic faith 'Living the Catholic Faith' fresh, accessible guide to living Faith in 21st century

By Roxanne King

For those seeking guidance on how to live a Catholic Christian life in the 21st century, Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., has released a lively, practical "handbook" of sorts.

"Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics," is the archbishop's first book. It's based on the popular lecture series the archbishop gave during the Jubilee Year. Topics covered include the Catholic understanding of revelation — which addresses Scripture and Church tradition — the Sacraments, and the Church and social issues.

"The whole lecture series for the Jubilee Year was really a kind of reflection on the basic elements of what it means to be a Catholic, [presented] in a non-structured way," Archbishop Chaput said, adding that the book is not meant to be "a textbook."

"It's just sometimes random thoughts around a certain issue," he said. "I try to be very practical and concrete and apply what the faith of the Church would mean practically in our day-to-day life."

Those who attended the lectures will recognize much of the content, but the book includes additional material, as well. The archbishop rewrote his pastoral letter on family life that addresses natural family planning for inclusion in the book because "it's such an important issue," he said. He also included a chapter on the Eucharist that is based on a lecture he gave during a liturgy congress.

"Anytime you write, you're picking something you're familiar with or something you think is important," the archbishop said. "I hope that matches the objective reality and interest of those who read the book."

When first asked by the publisher to consider writing a book, the archbishop declined. The publisher then suggested that "a relatively painless way" to write the book would be to hold a lecture series and use the talks as the chapters, the archbishop said, adding that the idea of holding the lectures appealed to him.

"It's the first book I've written and probably the last book I've written," he added. "I'm busy being a bishop. If it weren't for the fact that I was trying to imitate the Holy Father's zeal about evangelizing during the Jubilee Year, I don't know that I would have written this one."

An avid reader, the archbishop said he is "astonished that people think I have something significant enough to put into a book."

Those who received advance copies of the book disagree.

Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, described the book as "an appealing little introduction to the Catholic faith."

Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago, described it "the answer" for those "searching for the best way to live their faith amidst day-to-day struggles."

Archbishop Chaput describes it as "random thoughts of a 20th century preacher."

Initial copies of the book quickly sold out at a local Catholic goods store.

"But the bookstore only had 15 copies, so I don't think that's called selling very well," the archbishop said with a laugh. "I had 20 copies, but they're all gone. I sent them to my family, relatives and friends. So, there's at least 35 copies in circulation."

The archbishop credits his staff, in particular Kerry Kober, his correspondence secretary, and Fran Maier, chancellor, for the support they gave him during the writing of the book.

"They were my closest collaborators," he said. "I'm grateful to them and very proud of their association."

What is the message the archbishop hopes readers gain from the book?

"That the Catholic, the Christian, message is compelling - absolutely compelling," he said. "I hope I've contributed toward making it compelling for those who might not really understand it and might, through the book, look at it in a new and fresh kind of way."

Written for adults, high school students could benefit from it, too, as its style, which echoes the archbishop's homilies and lectures, is easily accessible. "There is a verse from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, that says that we pursue `the prize of God's upward calling in Christ Jesus,'" the archbishop said. "Really, that's what happens. To be a Christian is something that leads to new life, to joy, to creativity, to energy, to service of others. It's compelling because it's the truth. "To be what we're called to be in Christ, if you see what that means, you know it's right," he continued. "You know it's true, because it fits human nature and all of our desires and longings better than anything else. It answers all the facts that we have to deal with in our life in a clear, consistent, cogent, way." Living as a Christian "requires daily conversion, discipleship, and transformation," the archbishop writes in his book. "Becoming a Christian and living in Christ imply a lifetime of growing in Christ." Thankfully, the archbishop has penned an inspiring, contemporary guide to help the faithful do that in the third millennium.

Proceeds from "Living the Catholic Faith" will go to charity. List price is $10.99. Published by Servant Publications, it is available at local Catholic goods stores and online through www.Amazon.com.